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Humanitarian worker / Human Rights activist / Campaigner / Researcher / Member-at-large of humanity / Citizen of the world

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Annual Letter - 2011

Over the past several years in the life of our family, things have seemed to move so quickly forward that an extended look back has not seemed a worthy use of time. Yet, this December, as Melia and I celebrated our 20th anniversary, we have both been intentionally more reflective, not only of the past year, but from where we have come in aggregate. These annual letters to friends and family have served as a guide as we contemplated not necessarily the road ahead, but the road behind.

20 years. It sounds like a long time, and truth is, it is. I cannot comment on the stories of other couples that have been together for more than two decades, but ours certainly has been one of trial and error. To celebrate our milestone, Melia and I went away without our boys to Crested Butte, Colorado for a few days to ski, but mostly to reminisce through 20 years of tears, laughter, confusion, and the odd moment of clarity. We shook our heads as we wondered out loud together how these two souls ever made it this far, still together. We truly do not really know the answer to that mystery but whatever the reasons be, we will take it.

Our life together has been centered around making it, creating a home and giving our two boys as much opportunity in whatever avenues they dream of. I must admit looking back has not been easy as our many mistakes come glaring through. But we are concluding that we are more than making it – we are in fact thriving as a family with our collective ups and downs. Our story is more than survival but one of home and family and all that it has the possibility to be.

The physical exhaustion of raising 2 little boys has given way this year to the mental exhaustion of helping 2 young adolescents navigate their emerging freedom and the myriad of choices they are arrayed with. Of course, this is more so with Tanner right now who is 15 years old and can clearly see the horizon of post-high school getting closer. We see it as well and there are days when we are not quite sure if we want to push that horizon further away or bring it on more rapidly. Tanner has grown into a strong, competitive, energetic, and creative young man. 2011 has proven to be one of his more difficult years in life for a number of reasons, but he has come through strong. We all know there are times when getting through is a victory all its own. This has been Tanner’s lesson this past year. Tanner continues to excel at long-boarding, soccer, snowboarding, and has now added drums and singing in a band to his outlets. He is learning that it is ok to excel at academics, but this is an area a bit outside his liking at the moment.

Konner will not admit it, but he loves school. He made a tough decision this year and chose a different Middle School than where most of his friends were going. The difficulty in parenting Konner will be to have him not spend too much time on assignments and projects from school. He has no problem having fun with his friends, playing soccer, skiing, skateboarding, as well as learning both drums and guitar. With Konner, we work to help him find balance. He is up early each day, ready to face whatever comes. He will be turning 12 in a month from now. He is in the 6th grade and already trying to figure out what high school he should go to in a few years.

Beyond our jobs, Melia and I found some time this year to get away. In July, Melia was able to come with me on a business trip to Indonesia where we were able to steal a few days away and take some surfing lessons in Bali. As mentioned earlier, we also spent a few days in Crested Butte where being together mattered more than the lack of ideal snow conditions for good skiing. Taking a peak ahead into 2012, getting away alone – if only for a day or two – will prove to be more important in the next chapters of our lives, I think.

2011 did have its share of adventure. Melia and the boys traveled to Joplin for the annual cousin camp in June where instead of the normal activities they spent the week cleaning up after the devastating tornado. I am not sure the boys appreciated the experience but they were able to serve in small ways people whose lives had literally been turned upside down by a brutal force of nature almost immediately after it happened.

While they were in Missouri, I traveled back to Kenya with The 1010 Project to introduce a new Executive Director to our partners. It was humbling to see both the growth of the work started 7 years ago as well as how heroic our friends and partners in Kenya continue to be. Honestly, I miss that work on the ground in some of the more difficult places in the world. 1010 continues to evolve and root itself amongst other international NGOs and I remain humbled by the people who work on behalf of its efforts.

In comparison to other years, 2011 feels like an uneventful year for our family. In truth, however, being home more and finding some time together amongst the daily madness are meaningful events in their own right. For me, it has meant less travel so I can coach Konner’s U12 soccer team or simply be around with Tanner as he attempts to navigate the road ahead, both literally as he learns to drive, and figuratively. For Melia and I, it means continuing to nurture our relationship even after 20+ years. We have so much to learn and so much room to grow, which is both daunting as well as exciting.

We are sure of one thing. We have not come this far alone. As we reflected, we thought of so many people who have taught us how to build a home and cared for us along the way. From our early days there was Charlie & Rhonda King, Steve & Rhonda Knight, and Dale & Michelle Marshall. In Houston, there was Tim & Terry Champagne and Gary & Mickie Marshall, both couples who are heroic to us. In Colorado, we owe much to Larry & Marta Williams as well as Tim & Elaine Dally. When we moved to England, Simon & Jane Ward reached out to us while we were in a very wounded state. And we cannot say enough about Mike and Wanda Farra. It has been said that “it takes a village” to raise children. Well, Melia and I were kids when we got married and that proverbial village has surrounded us and nurtured us through each stage, teaching and modeling for us simply how to be. We both sincerely hope that we have contributed as well.

Thank you to all who have been and continue to be a part of our story. Thank you for allowing us in whatever way to be a part of yours.

Many blessings in 2012 – Andrew, Melia, Tanner, and Konner Syed

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Annual Letter - 2010

December, 2010

It’s December 31st, 2010, and I am just now sitting down to write the annual letter. Call it writer’s block or whatever, but for some reason this entire year I have found it difficult to write about much of anything. That difficulty has now made its impact on our annual letter.

Certainly, 2010 has been another eventful year for our family. We have not moved, though I did go through a major job change. Melia is teaching 1st grade again. Tanner started his freshman year of high school. We traveled east over the summer to visit my extended family and learn some kite-boarding in the Atlantic Ocean. As always, there was lots of soccer. There were no significant injuries to report, though emotionally we all were given pause when I worked in Afghanistan in February. In fact, it was that experience that ultimately led, I believe, to the decisions that brought us to the outlook and place we find ourselves today.

Peering into the future is always a dangerous guess as you end up gambling on events that have yet to transpire. As someone who thrives on idealism, vision, and risk-taking, I have often found the temptation to look ahead too strong. I have never dwelt much in the past, rather it has been the future that has stolen my allegiance. But I am learning. I am learning and working to spend more time in the present. And I can pinpoint the exact moment in 2010 when that lesson started.

In February, I realized a dream of mine when I landed the opportunity to work in Afghanistan for Amnesty International. I was appointed as researcher on a mission to explore, understand and address the plight of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who have been uprooted because of the ongoing conflict as well as deteriorating economic conditions. My heritage comes from the Persian/Arabic part of the world, so to work amongst people who knew my face was redemptive. I traveled all over the country and shared stories with very brave and enduring people. The hospitality extended me was overwhelming and humbling. I have been to every continent and in all my travels I honestly cannot think of another group of people with more strength, resilience, and heart.

Of course, this resilience comes from generations of conflict. From Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great to the Soviets and the Taliban, Afghanistan is a place that has been raped and pillaged by everyone else throughout history. Now, conflicting parties fight a war in their yard once again. Caught in the middle, most Afghans long for a peace they can only imagine. Daily life wraps seamlessly around military convoys, gunfire, the threat of kidnapping, IED’s, and suicide bombings. It was one of these bombings that literally got my attention at 6:30am on a Friday morning.

Roughly 300m from my guesthouse, a car bomb exploded, blowing me across my bed and shattering the front window of our dining hall. As I collected my thoughts, I also collected my grab-bag and ran out to our designated safe area to assess what was happening. For the next 3 hours, gunfire could be heard just outside the walls. We needed to stay put so for the next few hours I attempted to find ways of exercising out my adrenaline. We watched CNN to learn what was happening on the streets around our guesthouse. I called home to make sure all knew that I was ok. I called London to do the same with my colleagues. I contemplated those who face these dangers everyday. And I thought about all the communities and people I had interacted with around the world during the last several years in my work. As chaos rained outside, I realized that all I really had was that moment and I wanted more moments, as much as I could possibly control, to be spent with my family.

Human rights work can be personally devastating. To be exposed on a daily basis to the worst that humanity does to each other and itself has the potential to steal your very soul. Of course, there are heroic examples of people everyday combating conflict, poverty, oppression, disease, and disenfranchisement but too often than not there is the steady tide of despair that threatens to overwhelm. Our family lives with the strange tension of knowing peace and prosperity while much of humanity in which we share this place lives with only theoretical knowledge of such concepts. We work hard to not take it for granted, but it is indeed hard work. My moment in Afghanistan is in every essence minimal compared to what people endure there daily. That car-bomb killed 17 Indian doctors, killed by Taliban from Pakistan for simply being from India. As I stood at the bombsite 5 hours later, I was moved by the brutal force of raw violence that most of us only view as entertainment on our TVs, as well as the sheer irrationality of the whole ordeal. Again, these moments sped my mind to home and to the three other people I have chosen ultimate allegiance to.

So, I went home. Over the course of the next several months, I left my position as a Human Rights Researcher and Campaigner with Amnesty International and took a job in Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility in the Denver area that keeps me home a lot more. I still travel, but I am home more often than not. I am coaching Konner’s soccer team. I am at most of Tanner’s games. And most importantly, Melia and I are taking small steps in renewing our relationship and the commitments we hold to this family we both have been gifted with.

In now our 20th year together as a family, we have found ways to survive. But this past year, we as a family are enjoying a renewal with a deeper appreciation for each other and for our identity together. There is no substitute for being home, being around, being together. Watching Tanner grow from a child into a young man, full of questions and energy and life is both taxing and exciting. Konner continues to challenge us with his propensity for risk-taking and adventure, a trait in him I both fear and am proud of. Both boys continue to excel at soccer, but now have added skateboarding and long-boarding to their athletic repertoire. But they are not the sum of their talents and activities. They are great kids simply and completely because of who they are.

Our year was full of some of the traditional events including Cousin Camp, Thanksgiving in Missouri, and a quiet Christmas here at home. But these events had an underlying theme of renewal for us. Time together playing texas hold’em, or in a car on a cross-country trip, or skiing together in our Colorado mountains – these everyday activities have an increased sense of importance for us these days. Maybe it is because we do peer into the future a bit and can see a day when our kids will be moving on. Or maybe it is more of a sense of gratefulness that despite all that goes on around us in this mad world, we are still here and still together. We are fully aware that this is no small thing. Indeed, my thoughts still wander to the corners of our globe where such things are not the in the landscape. But right now, I need to be home.

It snowed 5 inches here yesterday. Outside my window, the air is cold and the streets and yards are painted white. Tanner is on his way out the door to his friend Quinn’s house to snowboard and no doubt concoct some plan to build some sort of jump. Konner is eating lunch with his friend Eli in our kitchen, and he as well is headed out to go sledding. Melia is taking down Christmas decorations. Stig the dog is chewing his squeeze toy. And I am sitting on this couch trying to encapsulate all that these scenes mean to me on a page. I can’t.

This year much of the world recognized that it has been 30 years since John Lennon was killed. During that week, all I could think of were his lyrics, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” The lords of war amongst us scoff at such idealism but the Christ of Christmas was called the Prince of Peace. It is not too much to ask, both in our homes and around our world. I hope this season and moreover the coming year for you and yours is one of peace, in your homes and yes, around our mad world.

As-Salaamu `Alaykum

Andrew, Melia, Tanner & Konner Syed

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Catching Up....

Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve posted anything on our travel adventure blog. Sorry about that – but what that really means is that we have been busy with normal life. Life in another country can sound exotic, but we have our weekly routine of school, work and driving two boys around to their various activities. In this sense, life hasn’t changed at all.

It hasn’t been completely uneventful here, though. Over the Christmas break, we spent a few days with my cousin Nazrene and her family in Bristol, which is west of here and near Wales. We spent a day in Wales at an ancient castle, fighting the brutal cold but exploring a site that was constructed in the 1300s. The boys were most fascinated with the catapult machines that apparently still work.

We also drove out to Land’s End, as far West as you can go on this island. Rocky cliffs and stiff, cold wind mark the literal end of land here in England. Konner looked in the distance to the southwest and commented that this was as close to the USA he had been since leaving home last July. I think he was trying to see rocky mountain peaks beyond that horizon.

A key part of our break was spent in Halston, a small town where my Aunt Irene is buried. Just 30 years of age when she died, she was an important part of my childhood. I was just 13 when cancer took her, but I remember her clearly and vividly. It was important to me to take my boys to her place of rest and let them meet her, if you will. It was more emotional than I anticipated – after all that was almost 25 years ago – but it was the first time I had the opportunity to visit. To watch my boys gently lay flowers at her grave was quite moving.

We welcomed the New Year with fireworks, then like everyone else, ventured into an unknown 2009. It’s mid-March now, and some things have changed – the biggest news being that we will be moving back to Colorado in August.

There are lots of reasons we’re headed back, but mostly it’s about wanting to be back home. We are very fortunate in these days of economic uncertainty that Melia and I both have jobs. Melia has her teaching job waiting for her at Ryan Elementary and Amnesty International has agreed to let me work remotely with periodic trips to London and of course my various jaunts to other corners of the world as needed. So, it seems a good arrangement thus far, living where we want to live and doing the jobs that allow us to contribute to humanity as we feel we should.

We haven’t been completely immune to the economic ills of this world. When I took this job just one year ago, one British pound was equal to about $2.10. As I write this today, it is worth just $1.35, which means our income has basically lost over 1/3 of its value. Melia can earn more for her work in Colorado than here in the UK, so as financially it made sense for us a year ago to come here, now it makes more sense for us to head back. Funny how a year changes the world. Actually, it hasn’t been funny, but you know what I mean.

Mostly though, this is about home. Our boys have had a good year here thus far, but they want to run around Lafayette. Melia has earned her stripes in learning a completely new education system and teaching in not the easiest of schools here, and she deserves to be in a place of familiarity. And me, well I miss mountains, space, and a few good friends, so it seems the right thing for all of us.

But, we’re still here for the next four months. We have trips to France, Germany, Holland and either Spain or Italy planned. And if all goes well, we’ll be back at altitude around 1 August. We might not have any of our stuff with us, but we’ll be home.

Cheers – Andrew & family

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

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A Christmas Letter - 2008

For the first time that I can remember, I really did not want to sit down and write this letter. Most years, I look forward to reflecting on the year that was and identifying some learning points to dwell in and share. Not this year, and I don’t know why.

Like most I’m sure, I can’t believe it is December, 2008. The place and space that our family finds itself in today is so radically different from a year ago, it is hard to know where to begin. The bottom line is that after 10 years of making Colorado home, we’ve moved. That’s big enough news in and of itself, but we’ve actually moved out of the country to London, England. This year has been about uprooting, moving, and the difficulty of leaving and finding all that is home.

It sounds romantic and amazing to move to Europe. Let us assure you, it is not. There are great things to do and see here, but life is lived everyday, and for us, the everyday has similar routines with now very different scenery. We get up, go to school and work, take kids to practice, wrestle with homework and bills, clean house, and generally stay fairly busy – just as we had done in Colorado. Yet, now we navigate these routines in very unfamiliar territories, and to be honest, it has not been a picnic.

It is ironic that as a child I moved some 30 times before I was 18. One would think that my children would not mind just 1 move, but they have. Our very special Konner especially has felt the pain of missing friends and familiarities the deepest, we think. Most every evening still, he expresses a longing to return home. As a dad, it is a difficult thing to negotiate. Tanner as well has transitioned slowly and has endured the hard lessons of being the new kid in school and on sports teams. For a 12 year-old, these are indeed hard lessons.

How do parents help their children through such times when they themselves are struggling to make sense of it all? We did not invite this radical change, but economic uncertainties forced a decision. In this, we are no different from countless of families in these challenging times. Literally thousands are losing not only houses, but places called home, and for kids, this is all the security they might know.

Home is definitely more than a structure with four walls and a ceiling. It is about family, obviously, but it is also about community. We miss this at times in our individualistic culture. The importance of community in living life is many times lost as we pursue career and opportunity. The transient nature of our society diminishes the role of community, but not its importance. For us, the greatest lost of 2008 has been a community called Lafayette. It is still there, certainly, and we might go back, but right now it feels a long way away.

Loss can mean gain, and we are no exception. We live just outside of London on the east side and have gained new friends, a new school and new scenery. During our first uncertain days here, some people from a local church expressed their faith truly and deeply in acts of generosity and listening and support. Our fridge and pantry were filled and sheets were brought to sleep on as we waited for our household goods to arrive by ship. For about 3 weeks in July and August our house was void of furniture and trinkets and it felt like a vacation. The holiday ended, though, when the truck arrived and the unpacking began. It was a strange day, unloading our family possessions into a new house in a new country. There was a sense of ‘uh-oh’ with the boys, as if they knew this meant we were staying.

Both boys are learning the knocks of English soccer. They have found a place on local teams and are realizing that their skill and commitment level to the world game might have been lacking back in the USA. Here, it’s religion and a very serious endeavour. Slowly, they are catching up.

Each day when the boys get up, they have to dress up in their school uniform. Konner dressed in slacks and a golf-type shirt and Tanner in slacks, shirt and tie, and blazer. To their credit, they have not complained about the new attire, but as soon as they get home, they change.

A benefit of this new life is that Melia teaches at the same school that Konner and Tanner attend. She would have to tell you first hand of her experience teaching in the UK, the differences and similarities, the strengths and weaknesses. She is still as committed as ever to teaching excellence and is finishing her Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado online as this year wraps up. There have been ups and downs in her experience in this new environment, to be fair. We are all hoping that the new year will see some ease in her workload.

I now work for Amnesty International in its London offices. I’ve been travelling quite a bit recently and may continue to do so in the new year. I’m still fascinated with the people I meet around the world who are marginalized and many times brutalized by the systems that exist around them. Poverty still troubles me, and the battle inside of me this year is for it not to defeat me. The world is not a beautiful place for most people. It is a fact that many of us forget all too often. This year, I've been to Kenya, Brazil and Romania and visited what seems the depths of human suffering. I've also worked from Geneva and New York at the United Nations at what feels like the heights of human idealism. I've yet to make sense of any of it. If you are reading this letter, please remember, you and I are the fortunate ones. We should not only be grateful, but active in bringing that good fortune to others. What else can we possibly be here for?

The 10/10 Project has continued on without me, which is a very surreal reality. At the end of last year, a documentary was made on our work in Kenya, which you can view if you like at www.oneplusonefilm.com. For me, it serves as sort of a legacy film, reminding me that good can be done and difference can be made, no matter how overwhelming the issues. This is important for our family as we have literally given all away and more to the rights of the poor and to teaching children. In fact, we might have given too much, which makes our days here in the UK a sort of needed recovery.

2008 has been a year of confusion and clarity all at the same time. We are working on rediscovering ourselves after years of emptying ourselves. Melia and I need to rebuild a relationship. Our home needs to find its joy again. Somehow, someway, we need to make this adventure of living here a healing process. We’ve haven’t figured it out just yet, but there is 2009. I cannot predict what will happen or where we will be a year from now, but hopefully, the important things will be good once again.

To all of you – peace,

Andrew, Melia, Tanner & Konner SYED

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Watching History from Here...

I stayed up all night watching the US elections. Here in the UK, it was just after 4am when Barack Obama was projected by CNN as the next President of the United States. I lifted my weary head off the couch pillow and watched both John McCain and Barack Obama give great speeches. From across the Atlantic, in a country where I was born but is not my home, I was proud to be an American citizen.

Melia and I both have been Obama supporters. For the first time in our lives, we even made a few donations to the political campaign. By default, Tanner and Konner have been in the Obama camp as well. As they went to bed long before any results came in, I made sure they could appreciate the gravity of the history that was about to be made, no matter what the outcome. An African-American in the White House, or a female Vice-President. Wow. Either way, can we all stop for at least a moment and reflect on what a historic moment Nov 4, 2008 indeed was? This is what I tried to tell my 12 and 8 year old young boys as they drifted off to sleep on what for them was just another day.

It might not matter to you, but I wanted to tell you that the view from most on this side of the Atlantic is hopeful and positive. And I’m not only referring to Obama, though this is certainly the case. The best of the USA was on display last night. The world, deeply divided by conflict, poverty, terrorism, climate change and this economic crisis, still looks westward to a land of opportunity. As they watched a white man concede peacefully and a black man give a determined speech to thousands, what they see indeed reveals the truth. For all its faults, every four years, the USA reveals its true greatness, not in military might but in the power of people deciding themselves who will lead them. The irony is not lost on me that Kenya celebrates while just a year ago it could not do the same in its elections.

I have heard John McCain give two great speeches in the last few weeks. One was at the Al Smith dinner in New York, where Obama was also in attendance. It’s worth a watch on YouTube, in the midst of a heated campaign. The second was last night, in graceful concession. He is a great man. Our country still needs him.

I know he has been a divisive figure, but watching Jesse Jackson in tears last night was quite moving. We forget that Rev. Jackson was there with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the dangerous days of the Civil Rights Movement. He was there on that terrace when MLK, Jr. was shot in Memphis. That famous photograph is not only of Dr. King laying in his own blood, but of Rev. Jackson (and others) pointing towards the roof from whence the shot came. He was there on that fateful day in April, 1968. I wonder what he was thinking last night as Obama became President-elect?

A close friend of mine who did some inner-city work in Memphis, TN years ago tells me a story of an aged African-American woman who marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery. She still speaks of the bricks thrown, the tear gas and the billy clubs used by police, and the amazing verbal hatred hurled at them most every step as they peacefully made their way after three attempts from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. She still works amongst the urban poor in Memphis. I wonder what she was thinking last night? No matter your politics, I sincerely hope you can appreciate the history.

Today, most of us will get up, get our kids ready for school, head to work, and continue to do our best to make this day a little better than yesterday. In that, it would be easy to assume that not much has changed. But change generally doesn’t happen in giant leaps, but in small steps. I don’t know if this election will actually result in anything pragmatic. That remains to be seen. I am obviously hopeful that it will. But I do know that any change I want to see must start with me. I voted, but more importantly, our family has chosen to serve, through teaching children, as Melia does heroically everyday, or through human rights campaigning which I find myself doing literally around the globe these days. We bring change by investing our time in our own children, exposing them to the realities of a harsh world as well as the possibilities that exist alongside those challenges. We bring change when we love our neighbors as ourselves, and when we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This, I think could work in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and I dare say, it might work in foreign policy. Of course, this is my faulted idealism revealing itself. Trust me, after years of working in poverty and human rights, I’m just glad that idealism is still there. It's taken a real beating the last year or so.

This is not intended to be a political post, just some thoughts as our family watches an historic election from across the water. I hope you read it as such.

Blessing and Peace - Andrew

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Day in London with Tanner

Today was Tanner and my day to go out and be together. Every once and awhile, Andrew and I split the boys up so that he takes one and I take the other and we have a day with one of the boys. Today was mine and Tanner’s day. Konner stayed home with Andrew.

So at 10:00 am, Tanner and I set out for an outing into London. Chafford Hundred, where we live, is outside of London. We are in a small community in England but we have the access to the big city of London at our fingertips, if we have the time. There is a 30 minute train ride into the city and then from there are the underground tubes, Double Decker buses and/or walking. You cannot be in a hurry to get there or you will just be frustrated especially on the weekend. The trains and tubes do not run as often and sometimes there are delays due to railroad repairs. Tanner and I were relaxed, we had time and we only had 2 things on our agenda to see; a gallery and a museum. We made our plans simple so we could enjoy the day, be home by dinner and not be exhausted.

Recently, Andrew shared with us a story about a man who is from London who suffers from autism. His name is Stephen Wiltshire. When Steven was a child he was mute, but at age 7, someone uncovered his gift which unleashed his voice and his soul. He is considered a savant. He is the most amazing artist. He flew in a plane to get a good look at London for only 15 minutes, came down, and began drawing the panoramic view of London from a birds eye view. It took him 4 days to complete the mural size drawing. The picture astounded critiques when the detail of the buildings even had the correct number of windows on each building he drew. Breathtaking! Tanner was impressed with this story and could not quit talking about it. So on our day in London, Tanner and my first stop was the Steven Wiltshire Studio near Piccadilly Circus. I do believe, Tanner has a new favourite place in London now. We were inspired by Steven’s work and his accomplishments.

After leaving the studio, Tanner and I walked to Piccadilly Circus to visit Andrew and my favourite London museum that we visited on our honeymoon 17 years ago - which unfortunately has closed down. In its place was the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum (which our family had already been to in San Francisco). Of course Tanner insisted. So we went. It had a mirror maze that was truly eerie and haunting and could cause one to panic when one got so easily turned around and lost. We loved the bizarre and wacky objects but mostly we just enjoyed being together.

It was good to be with my twelve year old son. Tanner helped me to navigate the underground and train probably better than I could do on my own. I was glad that I had him with me.

We had lunch at McDonalds before getting on the train to come back home. I told Tanner, “I can’t believe we were in London all day and we did American stuff.” Ripley’s is an American museum and nothing is more American than McD’s. I still can’t believe I caved on lunch. Looking back though even McDonald’s is a cultural experience in London. The day was a huge success. Tanner and I had a fabulous day in London enjoying the transportation, the buildings, and the scenery but mostly it was great being with Tanner. He is such a great kid.